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Saturday 2 Oct 2021    Things to do in Paris

Les Bouquinistes of Paris

Ever wondered about the story behind the green stalls dotting along the Seine river? Here's a little history on the bouquinistes of Paris!

Bouquinistes have been embedded in the Parisian landscape for centuries, and while they sometimes effortlessly melt into the picturesque scenery along the Seine river and its many bridges, if the little green book stalls were to suddenly disappear, we would realize how much the profession has contributed to the cultural heritage of France and is sans doute (without a doubt) one of the most iconic yet overlooked features of our beloved city - one that is truly irreplaceable.

While the term ‘bouquiniste’ was added to the dictionary in 1752 for sellers of old books, the métier (profession) seems to be much older than that and has operated under different names over time. Previously in a 1680 dictionary, the term ‘étaleur’ was used to designate ‘poor booksellers who spread out books on the edges of the Pont Neuf’. You’re probably wondering ‘Why so specific? Why just that bridge?’ – well it’s simply because at the time, the Pont Neuf was one of a kind! Bridges back then were not just bridges, and actually served as prime real-estate for housing and boutiques. The old bridges were made out of wood and now, with hindsight, we can see that lining each side with back to back buildings was not structurally sound... and poof! They all eventually collapsed. Which brings us to the Pont Neuf - the first bridge in Paris to be house-free and spacious! It’s not hard to see how it quickly became a sought after location for bouquinistes and other merchants. Even in times when literature was hard to access, the bouquinistes were there to save the day! During the French Revolution, only a select few newspapers and handouts were publicly available to obtain, so those of literary minds quenched their thirst to read and collect antique books by paying a little visit to their friendly open-air booksellers. The profession continued to grow as the quai was constructed along the river and more space was available to accommodate the merchants and their books. It was finally in 1891, when the city of Paris decreed that the bouquinistes were an integral part of Parisian culture and should be allowed to leave their merchandise on site bringing about the birth of the symbolic green stalls that we all know and cherish!

Nowadays if you take a peek in the stalls, the bouquinistes have adapted to modern times and have added posters, postcards, keychains etc. To feed the ever-growing hunger for Parisian memorabilia – a beautiful medley of old world France intersecting with modern day Paris. They have become such a fundamental part of the city that they were declared a UNESCO World heritage site in 1992! Rain or shine, bouquinistes open up their shops and welcome those strolling along the Seine – whether you’re two lovebirds living your own romantic movie, friends perusing the quay for that perfect evening apéro, or just on a promenade… don’t forget to give the bouquinistes a little love - un petit bonjour will suffice but who knows... you might find the perfect gift to bring back home! Like the old saying goes, the Seine is ‘the only river in the world that runs between two bookshelves’.

Central Paris Location

Last Minute Course Places

1 Mar 2024

  • French Baking Classes / Le Croissant & Breakfast Pastries
  • The 'Roi' of the Parisian breakfast table, Le Croissant ! Enjoy three hours of mastering this decadent, flaky, buttery French icon.

  • La Cuisine Paris, 80 Quai de l'Hôtel de Ville, 75004 Paris     Time: 9:30 - 12:30
  • Price: €119.00     Availability: 2 places left

2 Mar 2024

  • French Market Tour and Cooking Class / Marché Maubert
  • Spend the morning like the locals, with a typical Parisian experience. A full immersion in to French culture with a French Market Tour followed by a hands-on French Cooking Class right in the heart of Paris !

  • Meet at 18 Place Maubert in front of the fountain, next to Metro Station Maubert Mutualité     Time: 9:30 - 13:30
  • Price: €189.00     Availability: 1 place left

2 Mar 2024

  • French Macarons / Les Macarons : Technical 3-hour
  • For the serious Macaron lover. Three hours of intensive Macaron time - we will tackle two types of classic macaron shells and four types of classic macaron fillings!

  • La Cuisine Paris, 80 Quai de l'Hôtel de Ville, 75004 Paris     Time: 14:30 - 17:30
  • Price: €119.00     Availability: 5+ places left

5 Mar 2024

  • French Pastry / Les Choux, éclairs and more : Technical Choux Pastry
  • Intensive everything Choux Pastry, from Savory to Sweet! From the tempting and delicious éclairs and Paris-Brest to delicate savory Gougères!

  • La Cuisine Paris, 80 Quai de l'Hôtel de Ville, 75004 Paris     Time: 9:30 - 12:30
  • Price: €119.00     Availability: 3 places left

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Get in touch

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to call on +33 (0)1 40 51 78 18 or email contact@lacuisineparis.com    Click here for further contact details